Summer is here, bringing with it a plethora of world music events to take in, many of which will occur outdoors. Harbourfront is of course one of the biggest purveyors of music and culture on its many stages both indoor and out, but before having a look at its summer line-up, I’d like to draw your attention to a special event hosted by the Toronto Summer Music Festival. Bunraku is a form of Japanese puppet theatre, which originated in 17th-century Osaka. Puppets are often life-size, and the drama is accompanied by traditional music. On July 22, the Bunraku Bay Puppet Troupe and Imada Puppet Troupe will perform at U of T’s MacMillan Theatre, preceded by a pre-performance talk at 6:45pm. The Bunraku Bay group is the only American troupe of its kind, and they are joined by their mentors from Japan (Imada was founded in 1704!) in a series of short plays.

p22Heading down to Harbourfront, Music in the Garden curator Tamara Bernstein has once again put together a fine series of free Thursday (7pm) and Sunday (4pm) concerts, running July 1 to September 19. For the full schedule, check out Harbourfront’s website, but here are some “world” highlights: on Canada Day, the Ahkwesasne Women Singers sing traditional Mowhawk songs, and there will be a world premiere of a new piece by Barbara Croall, Agamiling (On the Shore), for Native instruments, voice, clarinet and field recordings. On July 22, folk dances from around the world will be performed by Jayme Stone (banjo), Mike Barnett (fiddle), Grant Gordy (guitar) and Greg Garrison (bass). Vancouver’s Orchid Ensemble presents “The Road to Kashgar” on July 29, featuring music inspired by countries and cultures along the Silk Road. In addition to Chinese, Indian, Jewish and Central Asian music, they’ll play works by contemporary British Columbia composers. Toronto’s own Japanese taiko ensemble Nagata Shachu performs on August 5; and sarangi virtuosa Aruna Narayan, with Vineet Vyas (tabla) and Akshay Kalle (tanpura) perform North Indian ragas designated for twilight on August 19.

Still at Harbourfront, World Routes 2010 is a series of mini festivals running every weekend from Canada Day through Labour Day. Some highlights: vocalist Cheryl L’Hirondelle presents contemporary songs expressing the Cree world view, July 1, at Redpath Stage. (Unfortunately this is around the same time as that evening’s Music Garden concert, so you’ll have to choose.) “Hot Spot” runs July 2-4; highlights include the Toronto International Flamenco Festival, featuring dancers, singers and musicians, and l’Orchestre Septentrional, an 18-piece big band from Haiti, on July 3. “Expressions of Brazil” runs July 16-18; Roda de Samba performs July 17, and 17-year-old Mallu Magalhaes performs songs from her two albums, in Portuguese, English and French. “Island Soul” presents Caribbean culture July 30-August 2; roots/reggae vocalist Queen Ifrica performs July 31, and some of Canada’s best steelpan players jam August 1 and 2.

“What is Classical?” (Aug. 6-8) explores notions of “classical” music, of both East and West. The Turkish ensemble Djoumbush joins forces with Warhol Dervish (baroque and contemporary chamber music collective) on August 7. And last but not least, the Ashkenaz Festival of Jewish culture returns for its eighth round of performances showcasing both local and international artists, August 31-September 6. For details, visit www.ashkenazfestival.com and www.harbourfrontcentre.com/worldroutes2010 for details on all Harbourfront festivals.

The 11th annual Bana Y’Afrique, a free outdoor festival of African music and culture, takes place July 24 and 25 at Metro Hall Square (King/John). Presented by Africa New Music, there will be 16 performances by groups from across Canada and one from abroad. Performers include M’bilia Bel (Congolese singer known as the “Queen of Congolese rumba”), Ethio Stars Band (Ethiopian songs from the 1960s to the present), Afrafranto (Ghanaian “palm wine music” – a style involving guitars, named after the drink served at gatherings where African guitarists played), Umurisho (a Burundian-Canadian drumming/dance group), and much more.

Staying on the outdoors theme, Yonge/Dundas Square is a hub of activity throughout the summer. The Global Grooves series includes Tambura Rasa on July 2, a cross-cultural group featuring Spanish guitar, gypsy strings, Afro-Latin percussion, Flamenco and belly dancers. Co-presented with Small World Music, another “ethno-fusion” band from Quebec, Apadoorai combines Australian didgeridoo, Reggae, Arabic, Celtic and folk music, July 23. Also a Small World co-presentation, Les Gitans de Sarajevo plays Balkan/Gypsy style music and song on August 13. For the full schedule of events at Yonge/Dundas Square visit www.ydsquare.ca and for more from Small World Music, visit www.smallworldmusic.com.

If you’re a jazz fan, the Danforth Mosaic BIA (www.danforthmosaicbia.com/blog) has a series of free outdoor concerts at the Coxwell Parkette (Danforth, just west of Coxwell station), every Wednesday evening beginning July 7. You can hear Suba Sankaran and Indian-jazz fusion band Autorickshaw on July 14.

If staying indoors is a must, head to Hugh’s Room on July 9 to hear the Gypsy jazz ensemble Gypsophilia; they’ll also be at London, Ontario’s Sunfest on July 10/11. And the Russians are coming!  The Russian Cossack State Dance Company makes its Massey Hall debut on September 1. Thirty dancers, a chorus, vocal soloists, and a 10-piece chamber orchestra present a colourful and lively evening of some of the most athletic dance and music around!

Karen Ages can be reached at worldmusic@thewholenote.com

 

 

June is the month in which The WholeNote releases its “Green Pages” guide to summer music festivals – and there are at least two with events coming up that are obvious picks for world music lovers.

p21The 11th annual Muhtadi International Drumming Festival takes place June 5 and 6. The festival launch event is June 3 at the Wychwood Barns (7 – 10pm), and a parade on June 5 leaves Ramsden Park at 10am ending up at Queen’s Park, where performances continue to 8pm, as well as noon to 8 on June 6. The festival will showcase around 30 different groups or performers, representing drumming traditions from around the globe, with a focus this year on “Women in Rhythm.” For more details, visit www.muhtadidrumfest.com.

The other major host of world music events over the summer is of course Harbourfront Centre, which launches its World Routes series of mini festivals on July 1, running every weekend through September 6. For the 2010 series, Harbourfront explores  a “global to local, and local to global” theme in its programming. Canada Day events include “Gypsy Melody,” Roma music from Slovakia at 1pm, and vocalist Cheryl L’Hirondelle presenting contemporary songs expressing the Cree world view at 6:30 (Redpath Stage). “Hot Spot” runs July 2 – 4; highlights include The Toronto International Flamenco Festival, featuring dancers, singers and musicians, and L’Orchestre Septentrional, an 18-piece big band from Haiti, on July 3. Visit www.harbourfrontcentre.com/worldroutes2010 for more details.

Harbourfront also launches its annual Summer Music in the Garden series of free Thursday and Sunday concerts at the Toronto Music Garden. On July 1, there’s a concert featuring traditional Mohawk songs sung by the Ahkwesasne Women Singers, and the world premiere of a new piece by Barbara Croall, performed by the composer and clarinetist Peter Stoll. For full schedule, visit www.harbourfrontcentre.com/torontomusicgarden.

Toronto’s Luminato Festival has a few free noteworthy events: June 12, “Rock the Casbah” and “An African Prom” runs from 1 – 11pm at Queen’s Park, and features performances by Montreal banjo maestro Karim Saada, the Maryem Tollar Ensemble, Algerian-born rocker Rachid Taha, Nigeria’s Tony Allen, Mali’s Bassekou Kouyate and American banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck. Kouyate, a master of the ngoni, the banjo’s African ancestor, was a contributor to Fleck’s film and recording project Throw Down Your Heart, which you can catch the same day at the Isabel Bader Theatre. Luminato also presents a World Music Celebration on June 20, the closing day of the festival, at Queen’s Park, noon – 6.
Another festival offering a taste of music outside the Western “classical” tradition is Music at Sharon, which presents Ensemble Polaris on June 13. They’re known to play a host of unusual folk instruments, performing music from Scandinavia, the Baltics, Scotland and Canada.

And there’s still plenty happening on the usual concert curcuit. The Canadian Opera Company continues its noon-hour concert series at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, with Nagata Shachu, Toronto’s Japanese Taiko ensemble that performs both traditional and newly composed works, June 3. The Toronto Children’s Chorus presents “Around the World in 80 Minutes” on June 5, featuring music from Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, South America, and Europe, including a new klezmer work by Martin Van de Ven, clarinetist with guest performers Beyond the Pale klezmer ensemble.

p21_shajarianIn association with Roy Thomson Hall, Small World Music presents Persian vocalist Mohammad Reza Shajarian, with the Shahnaz Ensemble, June 6. One of the most well known performers of Iranian classical music, Shajarian has had a career spanning over 40 years, both at home and internationally. He’ll be accompanied by an ensemble of 15 instrumentalists, directed by Iranian composer and tar player Magid Derakhshani. Small World also presents Italian singer/songwriter Carmen Consoli at the Mod Club on June 20. See www.smallworldmusic.com.

As well, the Toronto Chinese Music School presents a concert of classical and contemporary Chinese music, June 25 at the P.C. Ho Theatre in north Toronto. Instruments featured include the huqin, erhu, gaohu and pipa. And last but not least, Toronto’s Shevchenko Musical Ensemble presents a feast of Ukrainian and other folk, classical and contemporary music, featuring the Shevchenko Choir, the Toronto Mandolin Orchestra, vocal and instrumental soloists and the Desna Ukrainian Dance Company, June 27 at the Isabel Bader Theatre.

Enjoy the warm weather (and the music) – and see you in July!

Karen Ages can be reached at worldmusic@thewholenote.com

p20aMay is “Canary” month – the month in which The WholeNote publishes its annual Choral Directory – so I thought it fitting to first mention what some of the choirs are doing with world music. Echo Women’s Choir (directed by Becca Whitla and Alan Gasser) celebrates spring, freedom and the outdoors with “Throw the Window Open,” May 16 at Church of the Holy Trinity. Among others works, the programme will include songs from South Africa and the Republic of Georgia sung in the original languages, as well as Holly Near’s Hay una mujer, which commemorates women who were “disappeared” during the Chilean junta of the 1970s. Toronto’s Afrocentric choir, the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, performs May 26 and 29 at the Glenn Gould Studio. “And Still We Sing...Steel Singin,” features the new steel pan ensemble Legacy Groove Pan. The programme will showcase Trinidadian Calypso rhythms, West Indian folk music, works by David Rudder, and more.

The Toronto Jewish Folk Choir presents its 84th spring concert at Walter Hall, May 30. The concert which celebrates the memory of Emil Gartner, the choir’s longest serving conductor, will feature his daughter, Toronto Symphony cellist Esther Gartner, in Srul Glick’s Yiddish Suite No. 1, composed to poems by Yiddish-Canadian poets. She’ll also premiere a new work by Raymond Luedeke, commissioned for this concert, as well as perform in Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes with a chamber ensemble. The programme also features classical works, as well as songs in Hebrew and Judeo-Spanish.

As much a world-music concert as an early music one, “Lutefest” closes the Toronto Consort’s season with performances on May 7 and 8. I won’t go into detail here as it’s the topic of our cover story, but I couldn’t leave it out entirely. The programme features three instruments that are essentially cousins: the Middle Eastern oud, played by Bassam Bishara; the western lute (whose name is derived from the French “l’oud”), played by the Toronto Consort’s Terry McKenna; and the Chinese pipa, played by Wen Zhao. Do read the cover story for more!

Presented by Small World Music, the Gundecha Brothers present an evening of Indian Dhrupad music. Dhrupad is a slow, meditative, deeply spiritual ancient vocal music tradition, and Umakant and Ramakant Gundecha are, like the Dagar brothers before them, two of India’s leading artists in this style of music, performing both at home and internationally. You can hear them at The Yoga Sanctuary (2 College St.) on May 7.

Toronto’s Lula Lounge is a well known hotbed of musical activity, and this month they present “Lulaworld 2010,” a festival of world music running May 5 to 30. This concert series presents both Canadian and international artists, representing a truly global array of musical identities, with a special focus this year on Latin America. The festival opens with Latin jazz ensemble Bomba with bassist Fito Garcia and vocalist Marlin Ramazzini. There are too many artists to list here, so please visit Lula’s website at www.lulalounge.ca.

p20bHere are some highlights of “Lulaworld 2010.” Afrolatino Dance Company and Roberto Linares Brown present a Cuban Cabaret, “I am Cuba,” with show-girls, a Cuban orchestra and dance lesssons, May 8. Kinobe and Soul Beat Africa perform Ugandan roots music and original compostions, May 13. Colombia Mon Amor with Orquesta Fantasia present Colombian music, featuring a salsa ensemble with dance lessons by Bailaboogaloo, May 15. Son Jarocho with Cafe con Pan and Yohualichan offer an evening of Mexican music in honour of the bicentennial of Mexican independence, May 16. (This is preceded the afternoon before with a film screening of Los Soneros del Tesechoacan, followed by a dance and music workshop.) Mondo Uke features world music for the ukulele, with a bossa nova workshop for uke players followed by a concert of global ukulele music, May 17. Viva Celia presents a tribute to Celia Cruz, “Queen of Salsa,” featuring vocalists Patricia Cano, Alberto Alberto and Luis Mario Ochoa, May 22. And there’s a whole lot more!

Caribbean/Latin Jazz ensemble CaneFire launches its second CD, Pandemonium, May 19 at the Glenn Gould Studio. This Toronto group has been around for the past five years, and has won praise in Trinidad and Tobago after appearing in festivals there. I’ve had a listen to some of the album, and can testify that this is top-notch, polished performing of instrumental and vocal jazz, with the virtuoso steel-pan playing of Mark Mosca as one of the many highlights. Headed by pianist and composer Jeremy Ledbetter, the band features well-known guest musicians David Rudder and Hermeto Pascoal, as well as Alexis Baró (trumpet), Braxton Hicks (saxophones), Yoser Rodriguez (bass), Alberto Suárez (percussion) and Chendy León (drums). This promises to be a lively evening!

p21Opening May 19 and running to the 23rd, Seventh Stage Theatre presents 9 Parts of Desire by Heather Raffo. The play presents a portrait of nine Iraqi women, “a timely meditation on the ancient, the modern and the feminine in a country overshadowed by war.” The production features an all-star cast including someone who neeeds no introduction here, Arabic singer Maryem Hassan Tollar, who wrote the music for the production as well as acting in it.

Here’s some news about world renowed mrdangam player and and professor of south Indian music at York University Trichy Sankaran: “I wanted to let you know that my father is releasing a book, The Art of Konnakkol (Solkattu – Spoken rythms of south India),” writes his daughter Suba, of Autorickshaw fame. “It’s a groundbreaking work and educational manual, including accompanying CD”. Both father and daughter, members of Autorickshaw and other special guests celebrate with a free concert at the Music Gallery, May 27. The book will be available at a reduced price, this time only!

And heading to the traditions of North India, the Toronto Tabla Ensemble performs at Harbourfront’s Enwave Theatre, May 28 and 29. They join forces with two dance companies, Chhandam and Lavish. For more info, visit www.tablaensemble.com.

Coming up in June is another Small World Music presentation, in partnership with Roy Thomson Hall, Persian vocalist Mohammad Reza Shajarian performs with Shahnaz Ensemble, June 6. One of the most well known artists of Iranian classical music, Shajarian has had a career spanning over 40 years, both at home and internationally. He’ll be accompanied by an ensemble of 15 instrumentalists.

Karen Ages can be reached at worldmusic@thewholenote.com

This month opens with the lively sounds of Klezmer music. April 1, the University of Toronto Klezmer Ensemble presents “Klezmer Trajectories: Old World Jewish Fusion meets New World Surprises!”, as part of the noon-hour free concert series at the Canadian Opera Company’s Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. These concerts are always well attended, so it’s advisable to arrive early to get a good seat. There will be more Klezmer later in the month – Off Centre Music Salon presents “Klezmer...on the Roof!”, April 11 at the Glenn Gould Studio, featuring mezzo Annamaria Popescu, accordion virtuoso Joseph Macerollo and the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band.

Asha Bhosle 1Roy Thomson Hall presents a concert of Indian vocal music, April 3. Born in 1933, the legendary Asha Bhosle is best known as a singer for numerous Bollywood films, and is said to have recorded over 12,000 songs in her 65-year career. In addition to film music, she sings ghazals (poetic songs), bhajans (Hindu devotional songs) and folk songs, as well as traditional Indian classical music. More vocal music follows on April 6, this time from Senegal. Baaba Maal mixes the tradition of griot songs with rock, reggae and Afro-Cuban music. He’ll be performing with his nine-member band at the Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall.

Dubbed “Queen of the Toronto Cajun scene,” vocalist and fiddler Soozi Schlanger has been branching out on her own lately. Known primarily as the driving force in the band Swamperella (where, in addition to singing and fiddling, I’ve also witnessed her play a mean washboard!), this Canadian powerhouse of art and music first learned Cajun music at Ashokan, a fiddle camp in upstate New York. Out of that experience Swamperella was born, and the band has performed extensively, their dedication to authenticity garnering comments such as, “Now where all in Looziana y’all from?” Recently, she’s been going solo with “Soozimusic,” developing a repertoire of her own songs. Along with musicians Emilyn Stam and Victor Bateman, she’ll be performing at Slacks (562 Church St.) on April 4, the Tranzac Club on April 25 and the Moonshine Cafe in Oakville on May 2. You can check her out at www.myspace.com/soozischlanger.

Alex Cuba 1Recently back from performing at the Olympic Games, Juno award-winning Cuban musician Alex Cuba has a busy touring schedule this month. In Ontario, he’ll be performing at London’s Aeolian Hall on April 6, the Brock Centre for the Arts in St. Catharines on April 7, Mississauga’s Living Arts Centre on April 9, the Mod Club in Toronto on April 10 and the Neat School Stage in Burnstown (an hour northwest of Ottawa) on the 11th. After several performances in Quebec later in the month, he’ll be heading to Europe in May. His newest CD will be released on June 8.

On April 24, the Music Gallery presents two artists visiting from Berlin: Amelia Cuni and Werner Durand in “Ancient Trends & New Traditions in Indo-European Music.” Cuni is a vocalist trained in the traditions of Indian classical music, while Durand is a multi instrumentalist who also explores digital sound. Together they blend the old and the new, ranging from traditional music to microtonality. The concert is preceded on April 23 by an artist talk featuring Amelia Cuni, who shares experiences of her 30-year journey between European and Indian cultures. Visit www.musicgallery.org for more details.

Also on April 24, Music on the Donway presents “Journey to Andalusia,” a blend of Jewish, jazz, Indian and Arabic music featuring Toronto’s own Jaffa Road, headed by lead vocalist Aviva Chernick. Jaffa Road will also perform at Hugh’s Room on April 25, where they’ll be joined by Iraqi-Israeli oud/violin master Yair Dalal. This is one of Toronto’s most exciting up-and-coming fusion bands – not to be misssed!

Karen Ages can be reached at worldmusic@thewholenote.com.

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